The duo of late bassist Peter Kowald and inside-and-out pianist Agusti Fernandez in a set of extraordinary energetical, rhythmic and irrepressible improvisations.
Fernandez, Agusti & Peter Kowald
Sea of Lead
Label: Hopscotch Records
Released in: USA
"More than three years have passed by since bassist Peter Kowald passed away but there's been no shortage of new Kowald product (to coin a rather vulgar term) on the market since; Sea Of Lead is his third appearance on Hopscotch, after Deal, Ideas and Ideals (with Assif Tsahar and Rashied Ali) and Ma: Live at the Fundacio Juan Miro (with Tsahar and Sunny Murray). This time Tsahar isn't on the bill, and there's no drummer, but that doesn't mean there's no percussion. Agusti Fernandez's work both on and inside the piano remind us that it's first and foremost a percussion instrument, and David Casamitjana's recording made at Barcelona's Estudi 84 on June 27th 2000 is quite superb. Goodness knows where he put his mics, but they certainly were at the heart of the action: Fernandez's prepared piano shrieks and clangs sound dangerously close, and Kowald's pizzicato has rarely sounded so full and rich - Charlie Haden eat your heart out.
Elsewhere, his low-register bowed work growls like a lion (though I'll admit I've never been much of a fan of the sub-bass Tuvan horror movie vocals). It's easy to forget that despite his reputation for monster solo sets of extraordinary stamina - the last time I saw him he played non-stop for 80 minutes - Kowald was also capable of great restraint and used space and silence to great effect, and in Fernandez he found the ideal partner. Even so, the most impressive tracks are the ones where both men go nuts, especially "Rhizomes" (yeah, rhizomes were all the rage back in 2000, remember?), which pits Ligeti-like ostinati against Kowald's maniacal arco scrabbling, and "Tendrils", on which the bassist wisely sits on a low rolling groove and lets Fernandez turn out the kind of solo pianists dream of. Shame it ends rather abruptly. But you could say that of Peter Kowald's life, too. However, given the man's enormous appetite for work, it's a fair bet that there are plenty of hours of unreleased Kowald languishing on hard drives across the world. If they're all as good as this, it looks as if the Kowald discography is set to go on increasing for quite a while to come."-Dan Warburton, Paris Transatlantic
• Show Bio for Agusti Fernandez
"Agustí Fernández (Palma de Mallorca, 1954), with a perfectly based career and a well-deserved international reputation, is one of the Spanish musicians of major international projection and a world reference in the field of improvised music. Fernández has worked with famous musicians of the free improvisation scene like Peter Kowald, Derek Bailey, Butch Morris, Evan Parker, Barry Guy, Mats Gustafsson, Joel Ryan and Peter Evans a.m.o. He is a member of the Blue Shroud Band, Mats Gustafsson NU Ensemble and Barry Guy New Orquestra. Up to the current date he has published more than 80 CD's
He has also worked with the recognised composer of contemporary music Héctor Parra, who composed in collaboration with the pianist FREC, a solo for expanded piano. FREC has been premiered at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival in 2013 with the collaboration of the video artist Lucas Caraba. He has conducted various improvised music ensembles like Ad Libitum Ensemble (Varsaw), Free Art Ensemble (Barcelona), Ansambl Studio 6 (Lujbljana) Orquesta FOCO (Madrid), Entenguerengue (Jérez de la Frontera), Impromtu Ensemble (Valencia), etc.
Along his professional life Agustí Fernández has received much recognition. His solo for piano "Mutza" presented in New York in 2007 was distinguished by the New York magazine AllAboutJazz as one of 10 best concerts from that year. The CD "Un llamp que no s'acaba mai" on PSI (Agustí Fernández, John Edwards and Mark Sanders) has been distinguished by Allaboutjazz as one of the best 10 cd's in 2009; the CD "Aurora" on Maya Recordings (Agustí Fernandez, Barry Guy and Ramón López) was selected by Cuadernos de Jazz magazine as the best CD in 2007, by the Jaç magazine as the best fourth disc of the history of the Catalan jazz and it was Disc d'émoi (February, 2007) for the French Jazz Magazine. The "Agustí Fernández Aurora Trio" received the second prize at the BMW Welt Jazz Award 2012 celebrated in Münich, Germany. In 2000 he received the Festival Altaveu Award, Sant Boi de Llobregat (Catalonia). In 2001 he received the FAD - Sebastià Guasch Award, Barcelona (Cataluña) with Andrés Corchero por el or the performance "A modo de esperanza". In 2011 Agustí Fernández was the main character of the documentary film "Los dedos huéspedes" by Lucas Caraba, which has been screened in several international festivals of documentary. In 2014 the Ad Libitum Festival (Warsaw) dedicated a monographic edition to celebrate Fernández's 60th Birthday.
He's professor of improvised music at the Escuela Superior de Música de Catalunya (ESMUC). He's developing an important teaching activity in the field of improvised music and, among other, he has been teaching in IRCAM in Paris, the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre de Tallin, the Royal Conservatory in The Hague (Holland), the Conservatory in Arhem (Holland), the Taller de Músicos in Gijón (Spain), the Taller de Músics in Barcelona (Spain) and the Conservatorio Superior de Música in Salamanca (Spain)."-Agusti Fernandez Website (http://www.agustifernandez.com/biografia/)
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• Show Bio for Peter Kowald
"Born 1944 in Germany, died 21 September 2002 New York City; double bass, voice, tuba.
Peter Brötzmann (Corbett, 1994) recounted that 'there was this young guy trying to play the bass, who was Mr Kowald, at that time seventeen years old. Peter lived with his parents. I had my little studio, so he was always hanging out at my place. But he had to be at home at 10.00, he was drinking milk. But we changed that, very soon. His parents were always very angry with me, because he never showed up at home anymore, he dropped studies of ancient languages, Greek and all that.' By this time (1962) Peter Kowald had been playing bass for two years and, with different drummers the two Peters were playing Mingus, Ornette, and Miles Davis things as well as listening to Coltrane, Stockhausen, Cage et al. Kowald was part of the European tour undertaken by the Carla Bley/Michael Mantler band in 1966 (also featuring Brötzmann) and then came work with other German musicians, membership of the Globe Unity Orchestra and the first recordings: Globe Unity, For Adolphe Sax and Summer 1967, recorded during a brief vacation in London. In particular, Evan Parker credits this visit to London for his invitation to play in the Pierre Favre/Irene Schweizer quartet and his subsequent longstanding involvement with German (and other European) musicians. Kowald's work with Brötzmann continued - on and off - on record at least, to the time of Kowald's death and included the Cooperative Trio with Andrew Cyrille, a duo on the Duos project and a recent mix of free jazz, hip-hop and rap.
Peter Kowald was a member of Globe Unity Orchestra for 12 years (1966 to 1978) and for much of this time played less of a side-man role and more of an equal partner - for example, conducting the band - with the person to whom the group has become most associated, Alex von Schlippenbach. His influence is particularly noticeable on Jahrmarkt/Local fair where the two sides of composition are by Kowald (as is the second side of Live in Wuppertal and he is also credited, along with Paul Lovens as 'producing' the record, presumably sorting out the sprawling theatricality and poor sound into two 'meaningful' fragments. In his notes to 20th anniversary, Schlippenbach emphasises the importance of Kowald in creating a programme that became a lot more 'colourful'; while further pointing out that he and Kowald gradually drifted further apart 'until one fine evening after lengthy discussions which resulted in a fight in a pub in Wuppertal, this chapter also closed'. However, before this ending, from 1973 to 1978, Kowald also worked with the Schlippenbach trio (Schlippenbach/ Parker/Paul Lovens), turning it for much of this time into a regular quartet.
Throughout his career, Peter Kowald worked with a wide variety of improvising musicians worldwide and in many considered and unusual situations. He recorded bass duets with Barry Guy, Barre Phillips, Peter Jacquemyn, Maarten Altena, Damon Smith and William Parker, released two solo bass recordings, and had regular groups with Leo Smith and Günter Sommer; with Joëlle Léandre and dancer Anne Martin (Trio Tartini); with dancers Cheryl Banks and Arnette de Mille and cellist Muneer Abdul Fataah (Music and Movement Improvisation); a trio with pianist Curtis Clark; a trio with Canadian alto saxophonist Yves Charuest and Louis Moholo; and Principle Life with Jeanne Lee, Klaus Hovman, and Marilyn Mazur. During the period 1980 to 1985 he was a member of the London Jazz Composers' Orchestra. He has spent periods in the US and in Japan and recorded three duo LPs (two CDs) with US, European and Japanese musicians. He also lived in Greece and similarly played and recorded with the Greek musicians Floros Floridis and Ilias Papadopoulos. By contrast, the 12 months May 1994 to May 1995 was designated Kowald's 'Year at home' project which comprised a mixture of solo works - out of which, to some extent, the last solo CD grew (Was da ist) - and group performances.
In addition, Peter Kowald collaborated extensively with poets and artists and with the dancers Gerlinde Lambeck, Anne Martin, Tadashi Endo, Patsy Parker, Maria Mitchell, Sally Silvers, Cherly Banks, Arnette de Mille, Sayonara Pereira, and Kazuo Ohno. Specific works included Die klage der kaiserin (1989) with Pina Bausch, Short pieces (since 1989) with Jean Sasportes, The spirit of adventure (1990) with Anastasia Lyra, Wasser in der hand (1990/91) with Christine Brunel, and Futan no sentaku/The burden of choice (1990/91) with Min Tanaka and Butch Morris."-European Free Improv (http://www.efi.group.shef.ac.uk/mkowald.html)
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Label: Hopscotch Records
Catalog ID: HOP 17
Squidco Product Code: 5445
Packaging: Cardstock Gatefold Sleeve
Agusti Fernandez-piano, prepared piano
Peter Kowald-double bass
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1. Sea Of Lead Part I 5:08
2. Sea Of Lead Part II 2:23
3. Sea Of Lead Part III 2:34
4. Sea Of Lead Part IV 3:07
5. Sea Of Lead Part V 4:08
6. Sea Of Lead Part VI 5:14
7. Sea Of Lead Part VII 2:46
8. Rhizomes 4:53
9. Tendrils 4:35
10. Three Voices 2:50
11. Kowald's Dream 3:21